Freelance Writing – Learning From My Mistakes

Freelance Writing – Learning From My Mistakes

Freelance Writing - Learning From My Mistakes
Freelance Writing – Learning From My Mistakes

Learning From My Mistakes

In 2010 I was laid off from a job I held for almost 20 years. Without a backup job and knowing that unemployment checks would not cover all of my expenses, I knew I would need money and fast. I decided to look into other ways of bringing in a paycheck while still passing out tons of resumes and being on the job hunt for a regular 9-5 job.

I started off by making a list of things I liked to do and had the skills to do. The first things scratched off my list was doodling, coloring, and kids projects. Unless I could get hired as something related to drawing with kids (which I don’t have the patience for), I knew that I had to look elsewhere.

The skills that kept popping up on my list all had to do with writing and research. It was not a surprising discovery as I had a previous background working at a library and a few years as an administrative assistance behind my belt. Having been taught by a master (highly regarded reference librarian), I not only knew the Dewey decimal system but also how to research things without a computer. That is when the lightbulb went on over my head and I said: “I could do freelance work as a writer and researcher”.

Freelance Writing?

Not know the first thing about freelance work, I typed in “freelance writing” on Google and came up with hundreds of pages of topics from work from home, online writing jobs, blogging, article writers, and content writing.

Let me say that with my inexperience (and need for money), I got lured in by content mills. Oh, I didn’t know that is what they were known for in the business, nor did I know that any reputable freelance writer would avoid them like the plague. So, there I was signing on the dotted line to become a freelance writer for Demand Studios, Guru, oDesk, and Elance.

It was hard work trying to get a client as many were looking for the lowest bidder and there are thousands of other desperate writers trying to get the same gig. If you did win, chances are you were being paid to write a word a cent article. With all the research, writing, and editing that went into the article, this meant I was making $5 for about 1-3 hours of work.

All I can say is, if you haven’t done any writing before and you want to gain experience (but not money), then a content mill might be a good learning experience. Otherwise run as fast you can away from the content mill jobs!

No Experience Needed

Three months (YES, three whole months) into the content mill type jobs, I knew I could not do it anymore. I was making about $50 – $75 a week and the bills kept piling up.

That is when I saw an ad that said: “no experience needed – writers wanted”. A company called was looking for local writers to write in the niche of their choice for their new online newspaper. The pay was per click, but it would give a writer the experience of working with editors and copywriters along with learning how to market their talents and gain followers.

Much like the content mills I was not making quality money, but I have to say the experience alone made it worth working for the Examiner. I was quickly hired on as the local arts and crafts writer, which allowed me to introduce my readers to local shops, crafting events, DIY projects, and so much more. Nothing could contain my excitement of having my own page and column, which I could post to multiple times a week. My editor (a patient millennial) introduced me to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms that I could “advertise” my column and gain followers. She also helped me with my grammar issues and gave feedback on all my articles before they were published online.

Opportunity Knocks

Three months into my job at the Examiner, I got an email from a local rep. At first, I thought it was just an advertisement or some kind of joke, but an editor saw my Examiner column and loved my style. He asked if I would be interested in writing a few “top 5” local articles for their Chicago online news site. The pay would be $10 an article and they would give me the topic, which I had free reign to run with. Jumping at the chance, I spent six months writing every top 5 article you can imagine. They even spotlighted for 3 weeks my article on “The Top 5 Places to Go in Chicago with Your Dog”.

Around that time I got a call from a company that was interested in hiring me for a regular 9 to 5 job doing my previous line of work. Needing a full-time paycheck, I had to abandon my writing gigs to focus back on a “real” job.

Today and Beyond

That was 4 years ago and there hasn’t been a day that I don’t miss writing. I didn’t know the path that should be taken to become a full-time freelance writer and I allowed my fear of not having a paycheck rule over my dreams.

So here I am today starting over! While working my regular 9-5 job, I am taking every free course that I can find, reading every article and book, and signing up for all the free webinars about freelance work.

In the next weeks and even months, I will share with you the courses, webinars, blogs, books, and articles that I have used and found helpful in my journey to becoming a full-time freelancer. I will also share with you all of my triumphs and failures as a learning tool for anyone just starting out in the freelance business.

I welcome feedback from longtime freelancers and newbies too! Do you have a story to share? Any triumphs or failures? How is your journey going with the world of freelance writing and freelance work? I would love for you to share your experiences by making a post in the comments.




2 thoughts on “Freelance Writing – Learning From My Mistakes

  1. After posting about Elance and how many consider them a content mill, I received a private message and wanted to share a part of it.

    “Elance/oDesk has since gone through many changes and is now know as Upwork ( The company has higher standards than ever before and is now considered the premier platform for top companies to hire and work with the world’s most talented independent professionals. We’re creating a world of unmatched talent and opportunity, where global teammates who are thousands of miles apart can work together seamlessly”.

    Since Upwork is a newly formed company and changes have occurred since I used Elance, I decided to give it a try. I will post a review of the new services once I have completed the enrollment process and start working on my first projects.

  2. It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and
    it is time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if
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